Town’s double standard
Professional exchanges can be wonderful sources of new ideas. Unfortunately, the town of Chapel Hill has taken this reality to a troubling extreme.
In September, the nonprofit arm of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce organized a four-day visit to Boulder, Colorado. Among the 82 participants were at least 21 individuals who serve the town of Chapel Hill in elected office (7), advisory board posts (1), professional staff positions (8), and in quasi-governmental organizations funded primarily by local tax dollars (5).
This level of participation is excessively expensive. According to the event’s website, the participation fee ranged from $1,965 to $2,265 per person. That brings the price of sending 21 town-funded participants to between $41,265 and $47,565. And that total does not reflect the salary and benefit costs for public employees who were away for several business days. What value can town residents expect in return for this sizable discretionary expenditure?
More alarmingly, an unstated purpose of the event is to provide individuals with potential financial interests in town decisions with a multi-day opportunity away from the public spotlight to influence the thinking of the very officials who one day will have to act on those interests. It is hardly coincidental that many of the private-sector participants in the trip are land developers and related professionals. This reality makes it harder for citizens to have any trust in the impartiality of future decisions.
Lastly, the provision of unfettered access to town leaders represents a double-standard given the strict time limits placed on ordinary citizens wishing to share their views at official meetings, assuming comments are allowed at all.
While there can be value in professional exchanges, it would be prudent for the town to limit strictly future participation in such events for reasons of cost, transparency, and trust.
Town communications manager Catherine Lazorko responds: The Inter-City Visit is a biennial investment to learn from the experiences of another community, better understand the assets and opportunities of the delegation's own community, and to build relationships among participants on issues including economic development, transportation and quality of life.
There are 15 representatives from the town of Chapel Hill attending this year. They are elected officials and senior staff members who are making a major time commitment to learn and share with community leaders. The cost for their meeting registration and travel is approximately $31,000.
The Town of Chapel Hill posted a notice to the community http://www.townofchapelhill.org/Home/Components/News/News/10205/22 to share information about the inter-city meeting.
Our essential oneness
Jesus said “to love your neighbor as yourself.”
Divisions of our essential oneness by race, religion, ethnicity, gender, gender identify or sexual orientation do us a disservice.
In this climate of divisiveness, how can we honor the light in all people and stand together to face the challenges ahead?
Chapel Hill Friends Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
Cedar Ridge fallout
Editor’s note: Our story on the Cedar Ridge High School teacher who resigned after allegedly asking her students to compare the speeches of Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler generated many comments by email and online, including:
Robin Baneth: I am so glad my kids did not go to Cedar Ridge High School so they would not be traumatized by losing a good teacher mid-semester. Warning people about an impending storm and teaching them how they are being manipulated is not liberal spin. It is logic and takes guts.
Jim Forrest: If you truly believe (and many, many, many do) that a particular candidate is an existential threat to our nation, the question should not be “Why did she say this...?” — but “Why aren’t more people taking a stand?”
Herman Norman: The teacher was just pushing the indoctrination of the liberal left. It happens all the time as kids from conservative backgrounds are routinely discriminated against and made to feel like second-class citizens. While more subtle at the secondary and elementary levels, such blatant indoctination occurs at the university level, epecially the state-supported schools with little regard for the feelings or dignity of conservative students!
Elizabeth Giles: So North Carolina loses another experienced teacher. Hope she gets another, better-paying job in a more tolerant state. Maybe South Carolina or Virginia.
Bronwyn Merritt: I wish they had just told her to lay off sensitive political areas. It’s been widely publicized that Trump studied Hitler’s speeches and that side-by-side comparisons are strikingly similar. No tender children were harmed by having to hear what they see in their Facebook feeds every day. Just tell her to lay off it in the classroom and keep a competent experienced teacher.
Charles Humble: Sadly, the teacher was using good and current material to illustrate a rhetorical approach, material that would resonate with her students. I guess the truth hurt a little too much for some parents.
Darius Little: It was inappropriate, and the canning was correct.
Carla Harkness: I wish she had not resigned. This pressure to ensure no critical thinking is precisely the problem. If you dare you will be punished. She voluntarily, for her own good reasons, chose to resign instead of fight like hell. I hope some national level news media celeb gets a hold of this. How sad.
HB2 is ‘pure politics’
In the news article “McCrory blames politics for HB2 fallout,” (N&O, Sept. 16) Gov. Pat McCrory has the temerity to blame his growing House Bill 2 problems on politics - “I’ve got to assume it’s politics because this is the No. 1 state (in presidential and gubernatorial races in the U.S.).”
Has the governor forgotten the immediate outcry and loss of business that occurred as soon as HB2 was rushed through the General Assembly and long before anyone knew who would be presidential finalists?
The governor does his best to convince us that HB2 is common-sense legislation when in fact it is pure politics. In fact, the governor admits as much later in the article when he stated: “That is a pretty big change in society norms, which I thought deserves to be challenged.” No doubt pressure from religious Alliance Defending Freedom lobbyists and knowing any objection he raised would be swiftly overridden by the Republican-controlled GA helped cement his position.
Hopefully, after the election, when the governor is once again working full time for Duke Energy, he will have the time and distance to understand the speciousness of his stated reasons for defending HB2.
Many people, including our benighted governor, have tried to use the label “hypocrite” to tar organizations, such as the NCAA, that are boycotting North Carolina over House Bill 2. Why? Because they are not also boycotting other countries or states with similar laws. This argument is pure nonsense; it tells us, in effect, that we are not allowed to protest one injustice unless we protest them all. Really?
And it overlooks the unfortunate fact that the North Carolina situation is particularly egregious, with a state law rushed through in a special session, without public comment, specifically to overturn a lawfully passed local ordinance, and then immediately signed by a governor who apparently did not bother to read it.
HB2 took away existing rights (despite lies to the contrary) and took away the ability of localities to control some of their own affairs.
And then we saw the astonishing parade of lies uttered by the Republicans ever since, led by that drum major of lies “it’s for the safety of our wives and daughters.”
Shame on the North Carolina government and sympathy to the many people and businesses suffering as a result.
While it is laudable that GoTriangle and the Durham City Council have recently discovered the importance of N.C. Central University (CHN, Aug. 25), it is amazing that they have just now discovered that NCCU was missing from the original Durham-Orange Light Rail Project plan (despite years of letters from public).
The Final Environmental Impact Study (FEIS) was submitted to the federal government and now GoTriangle is projecting that an NCCU stop may have the highest station ridership in Durham? What does that say about the efficacy of the DOLRT planning? Surely we as taxpayers deserve better!
With the N.C. General Assembly reiterating a 10 percent state funding cap (and requiring DOLRT project be re-evaluated in two years with other competing state requests in the state transportation budget), GoTriangle is desperately trying to perpetuate DOLRT fantasy by shifting objectives yet again.
Meantime, GoTriangle bureaucracy continues, consuming our hard-earned tax monies, studying and restudying the same information, desperately hoping for a different answer (and inflated ridership) to perpetuate this ill-conceived albatross of a project called DOLRT without addressing local residents’ concerns. DOLRT will serve less than 2 percent of our current population!
And within 72 hours of GoTriangle’s press release, our elected Durham officials unanimously approve the expansion of a $1.6 billion project with only cursory public comment.
Stop this madness. Stop this runaway train. We need a viable transit plan. Where is Plan B?
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